A new RSPB study has shown an incredible 80 per cent reduction in golden plover numbers following the construction of turbines at the Gordonbush wind farm near Brora.
RSPB scientists, funded by SSE, studied golden plovers for five years, before, during and after construction of the wind farm.
The study reports that numbers of the plover, which are protected under the European Birds Directive, dropped by four fifths within the wind farm during the first two years of operation. These declines were markedly greater than on areas surrounding the wind farm that were studied over the same period.
Lead researcher Dr Alex Sansom said: “Golden plovers breed in open landscapes and it is likely that the presence of wind turbines in these areas leads to birds avoiding areas around the turbines.
“This study shows that such displacement may cause large declines in bird numbers within wind farms. It will be important to examine whether these effects are maintained over the longer term at this site, and we should also use these detailed studies to examine the effects of wind farms on other bird species.”
Aedan Smith, head of planning and development for RSPB Scotland said: “We desperately need more renewable energy projects including wind farms to help tackle the causes of climate change, which is harming wildlife in Scotland and across the world.
“However, it is vital that wind farms, like any development, are sited to avoid harming our most important places for wildlife. Fortunately, the vast majority of wind farms pose no significant risk to our wildlife. This important study shows that bird numbers can be seriously affected by badly sited wind farms in more ways than simply colliding with turbine blades, and highlights the importance of getting things right at the outset, so that impacts can be avoided.”